At Last: Opening a New Building for Health in Haiti

Monday, Feb. 25

This is the day we’ve been waiting for – when we get to meet the Minister of Public Health and Population and see the new building!

The day started bright and early and was on a fast-paced schedule throughout. We had a briefing from CDC Foundation staff at an outdoor buffet breakfast – even at 7 a.m., it’s warm in Haiti! I tried a local favorite of hot dark chocolate blended with coffee; it was delicious.

Well-briefed and well-fed, we boarded the vehicles with local drivers (a must for visitors, between the heavy traffic and the vague traffic rules, it’s best to leave the driving to the Haitians), and headed across town to the site of the new MSPP building.

We were welcomed by Dr. Florence Guillaume, a warm and gracious woman who is clearly deeply committed to improving access to care and the general health of the Haitian public.

She told us about her “promise to God” that she would do her job well and take care of the people. Already, she’s been making progress in maternal health and getting many more people into HIV-AIDS treatment and care. She talked about her plans to prevent cholera, a disease that showed up in Haiti after the earthquake and took many peoples’ lives. And she spoke at some length , along with partners from the CDC, about the work underway to assess and work on decreasing  violence against children in the country.

There was an official ceremony of the deed to the building being signed over to the Ministry, followed by giving her the keys to the building and cutting a big purple ribbon (she saved the bow to hang on the wall in her office). We had lots of photos, and I gave her a Kaiser Permanente tote bag (one of the colorful laminated fruit and veggie totes) that had a little bag inside it with a KP eco-friendly pen and pencil, a packet of sunscreen and a tube of lip balm, along with a  “Thrive” handheld fan – very useful in a tropical climate! We left a supply of these gifts for her to give the MSPP employees when they move into their new office space in a few weeks.

After that, we went for a tour, dedication and press conference to the Haiti National Laboratory, which is also housed in two modular buildings designed and built by the same company, Proteus On Demand, that built the MSPP building. Their buildings come equipped with furniture, mechanical and electrical systems, computer wiring and office furniture, which is a major advantage in these rebuilding situations.

The late afternoon was spent in briefings with CDC staff, bringing us up to date on the work that they are doing, partnering and providing technical assistance to the MSPP, and also in partnership with USAID and the United Nations. The people who work for CDC are really an impressive group; very smart and committed, and genuinely nice people who care about health around the world. It was clear that these folks enjoyed working with one another, weren’t put off by a challenge or a change in plans, and that they are in this work for the long haul.

The people of Haiti are industrious and resilient. We look forward to hearing about the progress that they are determined to make to improve their health and economic well-being in the years to come.

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